I’m going to digress from making stuff for a little bit, because I think there’s some things that should be said. It’s Thanksgiving Week, which is for many people the start of the best time of year. We love it. Our families are all very close-knit and geographically together, so we get to enjoy a lot of great family time here during the holidays. But this year is apparently going to be different for a lot of people.
A cursory glance through the news reports this week are picking up fun headlines like this:
And then there’s these:
To Kelcey Caulder, 22, the division is painfully real. The college student from Athens, Ga., feels its looming presence every time she thinks about her grandma, a Trump supporter and ardent opponent of abortion rights.
They haven’t talked much since Caulder’s grandma found out that Caulder was voting for Democrat Hillary Clinton and told her granddaughter bluntly, “You’re going to hell.”
Caulder tried to be understanding.
“I think, in her way, she was trying to be protective of me,” Caulder said. “She wasn’t saying ‘Kelcey, go to hell.’ It was more like she was saying, ‘Kelcey, don’t you know this could send you to hell?’ ”
But when her grandma unfriended her on Facebook, Caulder said, it was hard not to take it personally. Now, she is nervous about Thanksgiving, although she hopes the family dinner could be a chance to reconcile.
It’s been a rough year for everyone politically. Can we all agree on that? Regardless of your personal ideology, you didn’t really win this year. Your hands are not clean.
Politics is a nasty business. It always has been. Ask anyone older than you about elections in times past. Even two of our founders, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, wrote nasty and mean-spirited letters at each other through local newspapers. Politicians appeal to and manipulate the worst in all of us, because happy and content people are not people motivated to rush out and vote. Politics is anger, bitterness, strife, and manipulation. Politics is stupidity and ignorance and it lies to everyone, no exceptions.
Thanksgiving is the opposite of this whole mess. Thanksgiving is so transparent it was literally named after what it’s supposed to be about. We give thanks. We are grateful. We take time to realize that even the worst of us in the first world don’t have it so bad. We come together with family and friends and remember the things that are truly important in our lives.
Hint: It’s not whatever is going on in Washington.
A family member of mine once saw a psychologist who told them to visualize a hula hoop surrounding them. Everything they could directly affect or help or change was “inside the hoop”. Family. Friends. Personal issues. Local concerns. The dishes. The laundry. Work. Everything that they couldn’t change or affect was “outside the hoop”. We spend far too much time wasting energy and relationships on things outside that hoop.
Politics is Outside Your Hoop
Way outside. And unless you work in national elective government, or a candidate’s campaign, or in the national media, it always will be.
On the contrary, your family and your friends are the closest things to you inside that hoop. Yet a significant number of people out there this year are going to see those things suffer because we’re all way too focused on that one stupid, nasty, destructive force that’s so outside our hoop we couldn’t hit it with a long range ballistic missile. Kinda makes you wonder why we’re doing this to ourselves, huh?
Politically, I’m a conservative. I have an aunt who’s at the very very opposite end of the spectrum. She posts stuff on Facebook that makes smoke come out of my ears sometimes, it’s true. But you know what? I love her. She’s my aunt. She is my mother’s sister. I don’t agree with her on a lot of stuff, but she is family, and I was raised knowing that family was most important. And that’s not a taught thing – it’s in our nature, coded directly into the fiber of our existence.
So when the election was over, I was (somewhat) happy. My aunt was very upset. And that made me upset, because I love my aunt and I don’t want people I love to be upset even if it’s over something that made me the opposite. So I set what I felt aside and reached out to her, because that’s what family does. Family is the most important thing on this planet. Politics wants you to think that this issue here or that issue over there is the most important thing. It’s life and death. It’s threatening our very culture and is going to wreck this country.
It’s easy to get caught up in that. But as I mentioned before, politics is a liar. It says what it thinks is going to get your emotions enflamed the most so you will send them your time and money. Politics never gives anything; it only takes. And takes and takes and takes.
Thanksgiving is About Grace, Especially In Victory
The story of American Thanksgiving (however apocryphal it may be) is one about Grace. Two peoples, the natives and the newcomers, came together and showed grace to each other. They shared food and help and experience. That grace wasn’t shown during most of the history between those two peoples, but that day it was. In the same way, we’ve wronged our Creator in every way in the book (and that was probably just over the last few days) and yet here we still are, sitting in God’s Grace. And that Grace is here, even if you don’t believe in it, as an example of how we should treat others – strangers! How much more so should you treat your own family on a holiday dedicated to Grace?
You may be elated and excited that your side won. It was a tough and dirty battle for everybody. But give it a rest this week. There are other members of your family out there right now that are hurting and truly afraid because politics has whispered apocalyptic lies in their ears. Right now you’re confident and boasting because politics has whispered other lies in yours. Step back from the liar and give your family member grace. Love them because they are who they are – people.
Give them a hug and tell them everything is going to be okay because politics does not control your family’s destiny. If your college age daughter lashes out because she thinks your vote is going to ruin the planet and curse future generations, show Grace. When your son in law from Texas starts talking about illegal immigration and how abortion is murder, show Grace. People feel strongly about things on both sides – feel stronger about your family than they do about issues. Show Grace.
Thanksgiving is Also About Grace in Defeat
Your side lost, and you’re upset. And maybe even scared or angry, depending on how much time and energy and worry you devoted to our friend politics. At home are a bunch of people that didn’t vote like you and now you feel like they’re partly responsible for the way you feel.
They’re not. Love them because they are more than who they voted for. They are your family who watched you grow up over Thanksgivings past and celebrated your milestones and victories as a child. When your grandfather starts singing the praises of Trump, show grace. When your aunt calls him a racist and a misogynist, show grace. When they start throwing food at each other, laugh about it, clean up, and show grace. Don’t let your love for these people be trivialized by something as stupid and false as politics. Show Grace.
And then sit down, have dinner, and talk about the weather and movies and your hobbies and tell stories of past Thanksgivings when your mom accidentally put baking soda instead of flour in the gravy and you all had a good laugh about it (true story) and how your brother once when he was 12 said he refused to help in the kitchen because “that’s women’s work” and ended up getting to do all the dishes by himself that year for saying something so phenomenally stupid (also a true story, except it wasn’t a brother…it was me. I know. I know).
And for the love of God, stop talking about politics. Politics is a petty, petulant, filthy disease that you shouldn’t dignify by even acknowledging its presence.
Most of all, talk about the things in your life that are truly important that you’re thankful for. The people surrounding you. The food on your table. The fact that this universe is full of astronomically huge improbabilities and yet here you are, living your life right now.
Keep to the things inside your hoop, the things that really matter in your life. Show Grace. Give Thanks.
And pass the pecan pie.